Equestrian Australia seeks “cohesive future” after being placed in administration

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Board members have placed Australia’s national governing body for horse sport, Equestrian Australia Ltd, into voluntary administration.

The move comes after Sports Australia’s decision to withdraw funding until Equestrian Australia Ltd demonstrates stability in governance and operation and that the organisation is representative of its members. That, combined with the impact of Covid-19 on the organisation’s forecast revenue, meant that EA was at risk of trading insolvently.

Craig Shepard and Kate Conneely of KordaMentha Restructuring have been appointed Voluntary Administrators.

Shepard said business would continue as usual at Equestrian Australia during the Administration. There would be no redundancies and preparations would continue for competitions including the Olympics as well as Covid-19 safety management plans for the full resumption of the sport.

“The objective of the administration is to stabilise the business and create a plan that will allow the organisation to come out of Administration with a solid future,” he said.

“We hope to have a plan within weeks. The plan must go to creditors for approval, and members will have a big say on Equestrian Australia’s future. There are few other creditors apart from the Australian Sports Commission.”

Shepard noted that the company’s five-year strategic plan announced last month declared that all activities should be measured against benefits to members. “And clearly a restructured Equestrian Australia needs the confidence of its major funder,” he said.

A statement from the Board of Equestrian Australia said its objective is “to move forward to a more cohesive, and effective future”.

“In order to protect the Equestrian Olympic program and athletes, the High-Performance program will immediately be transferred to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and funding returned to them. However, The High-Performance Panel will remain in place at EA, and the program will continue unabated in pursuit of Equestrian Gold at the upcoming Olympics.”

Board Spokesperson John Glenn said the situation was disappointing, but the current EA operating model clearly did not work.

“We have faced overwhelming challenges as an organisation over the past few years, but this EA board is unified and committed to a fresh start. This now is an opportunity for real change to rebuild the sport for current athletes and future generations.

“In our sport of so many diverse interests, rarely do our branches, committees, and members share a cohesive view. Disagreement, however, should not be destructive. The goal is for EA to rebuild as a viable, representative, democratic and stable national sporting organisation – and return to a focus on sport as quickly as possible,” Glenn said.

The board said it had reached out to the 18,000 grassroots members of Equestrian Australia to update them on developments and also to seek their views about what a sustainable, safe and successful EA looks like going forward.

Equestrian Australia was formed in the 1950s to pave the way for Australia’s equestrian debut at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. Australia has built a reputation for elite performance in the sport, with nine Olympic gold, four silver and eight bronze medals.

The organisation has more than 20,000 members, nine staff members and annual turnover of about $6 million. State branches of EA are run by separate boards.

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